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The Earth is spinning faster now than...

  AT ANY [TIME] in the past HALF CENTURY

If 2020 felt like a drag, you may be surprised to discover it actually went faster than you thought ... and this year is set to be even speedier. The Earth has been spinning unusually quickly lately, and July 19 saw the shortest day since records began, with the planet completing its rotation in 1.4602 milliseconds less than the usual 86,400 seconds.

The previous shortest day in 2005 was beaten 28 times last year, and 2021 is on track to be the most nippy year ever, with the average day passing 0.5 milliseconds faster than usual. 
The changes to the length of a standard day were only discovered after highly accurate atomic clocks were developed in the 1960s and compared to fixed stars in the sky.

In recent decades, Earth's average rotational speed has consistently decreased and timekeepers have been forced to add 27 leap seconds to atomic time since the 1970s to keep clocks in sync with the slowing planet. The last one was added on New Year’s Eve 2016, when clocks around the world paused for a second to allow the Earth’s rotation to catch up. Then, BT's speaking clock added a second's pause before its third pip while Radio 4 inserted an extra pip to its 1am bulletin.


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